Friday, 28 February 2014


Muthokoi (maize without husks) is a dish among the Kamba community from the Eastern part of Kenya. It entails removing the outer skin of the maize grains by using a pestle ‘muthi’ and a wooden mortar ‘ndii’.

Pounding – ‘kukima mbemba’ 
The traditional way of making muthokoi was done as follows :-

Dry maize was taken from the granary ‘ikumbi’ and put in a large half calabash ‘nzele’ or a plaited tray used for sifting ‘lungo’. To sieve the dirt from the maize a second large calabash was used;  while standing where wind was blowing .
Ndii and Muthi
The maize was then put in a mortar ‘ndii’, some water was added to soften it then a wooden pestle ‘muthi’ was used to do the pounding. The pounding can take about one hour; sometimes it’s done by two people at the same time to make it faster. As the pounding continues, the maize starts drying and more water is added until the husks are completely removed from the grains Once the pounding ‘kukima mbemba’ is over, the maize is removed from the mortar ‘ndii’and poured on a sack and left to dry in the sun. After drying, it is placed in a large half calabash and the sieving process is done again by using two half calabashes ‘nzele’. It should be noted that for the muthokoi to cook nicely all the outer skin of the maize (makole) must be removed by sieving against the wind.
Once this is over, the grains are separated by selecting carefully the split ones from the whole ones, then the split ones are put aside and are called ‘nzenga’.
The split maize ‘nzenga’ can be cooked as rice. The de-husked grains are the ones cooked as muthokoi.
A large family will need two to three poundings to cater for everyone. This meal can be taken as lunch, supper and the leftovers can be used during breakfast the following morning with yorghurt ‘yiia ikaatu’.

In a clay pot ‘mbisu’ put your muthokoi, add beans ‘mboso’, cowpeas ‘nthooko’, pidgeon peas  ‘nzuu’ or any other legumes and add some water. Using the traditional fireplace; a three stone fireplace ‘yiiko ya ngu’ light up the fire and place the pot on the three stones. Let it cook for about 2 – 3 hours. As it cooks, keep adding more water. When it is about to stick at the bottom of the pot, add more firewood, lest the fire ebbs out. When thoroughly cooked, drain out excess water ‘kithoi’ by tilting the pot a bit. This is called ‘kukeluka mbisu’. The excess water ‘kithoi ‘  is very nutritious. It is usually given to babies. One can also use it to add onto the already served meal if it becomes dry. At this juncture one can opt to add pumpkins ‘malenge’or ‘mongu’ a species of pumpkin plant, then mash using a big wooden spoon ‘mwiko’. During our ancestors’ time, there was no salt, so some soil called (kithaayo) which was collected from the river was mixed with water and sieved.  The result was a salty liquid which was added to the muthokoi meal. The serving was done on a half calabash then ghee ‘mauta ma ngombe’ was added to make it tasty or delicious. Spoons carved out of a guard ‘kikuu’ were used  for eating or one could use their bare hands to eat.

For preservation, the muthokoi was wrapped in banana leaves and put in another half calabash ‘uwa’ then placed on a wooden rack which was and is still used for drying utensils ‘utaa’. It could last for almost a week without going bad. Nowadays, the process of shelling the maize is done by machines in urban towns but in the rural areas the traditional method is still being used. People have modernized the cooking by frying it using/adding the following ingredients:
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Coriander leaves and other spices.
Muthokoi was mainly cooked during traditional weddings or during bride price negotiations ‘ngasya’ to feed the visitors. Families could also cook it in absence of any occasions. In some areas in Ukambani, it is still used  as the cost of living has tremendously shot up and most families substitute it for rice which has become expensive for many households from the rural  areas.

Story Prepared by:
Josephine Nzuki, Librarian NMK-Main Library

Thursday, 27 February 2014



Mutura is a popular sausage-like delicacy among the Kikuyu tribe of Central Kenya which is prepared by stuffing the large intestines of either a goat or a cow with a mixture of ingredients. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘African sausage’.

The ingredients used in preparing this delicacy include minced meat and blood from the slaughtered animal, leafy onions, pepper and salt to taste.

The preparation of ‘mutura’ begins when the animal is being slaughtered. The spilling blood is collected in a calabash or a sufuria and kept aside. Some little salt is added to the blood to prevent it from clotting.
After the animal has been skinned and the various parts separated, the mutura expert meticulously separates the large intestines (mutura) from the small intestines (mara). There are two large intestines in the animal. The wider and shorter of the two is known as ‘mutura wa kiboroboro’ and is very easy to and fast stuff while the narrower and longer one which is also believed to be sweeter is known as ‘mutura wa kageri’ and is a little difficult and time consuming to stuff. The two large intestines are then kept aside to await the preparation of the stuffing mixture.

The expert then goes to the various limbs of the slaughtered animal mostly the neck (ngingo), the lower parts of the ribs (hutiro) as well as the back (mugongo) and other unpopular parts like the lungs (mahuri) e.t.c.,  from which he is able to gather  enough pieces of meat to stuff the ‘mutura’. 
The meat to be stuffed inside the ‘mutura’ requires chopping into very small pieces for it to go through the opening. In the traditional Kikuyu society unlike today there were no meat mincing machines and so to chop the meat into small pieces almost to the size of the minced meat of today, the expert used a sharp panga and a tree stump (gitiri). This is still in use today as ‘mutura’ prepared using this method of chopping is believed to be sweeter than that made from machine-minced meat. 

The expert places the pieces of meat onto the tree stump and by hitting the meat against the stump using the sharp edge of the panga, the meat is chopped into very small pieces which can easily get through the ‘mutura’ during stuffing. The chopped meat is then put into a sufuria with a little water and salt and cooked until soft and tender. Some leafy onions and pepper to taste are added to the meat and allowed to cook together for a few minutes.
 Once the mixture is well cooked, it is removed from the fire and the raw blood which had been kept aside during slaughtering is now added and mixed thoroughly.

The mixture is now ready for stuffing into the ‘mutura’. The expert identifies the wider opening of the large intestines (mutura) which he had kept aside earlier and starts the process of slowly stuffing it with the mixture. He has to be careful because if he forces the mixture quickly into the intestines it can rapture and mess the delicacy, he ensures that with every little stuffing he adds a little fluid mainly the blood which was added to the mixture so that everything moves smoothly. 

He should also not squeeze too much of the mixture into the ‘mutura’ since if it is too full, it will rapture during roasting. The stuffing must be done when the mixture is still hot because when it gets cold stuffing and squeezing in becomes more difficult and the’ mutura’ can easily rapture. 
After he has finished with the stuffing, the’ mutura’ can either be roasted directly on the charcoal oven or it can first be put into the boiling soup where the head and the lower legs (mathagiro) are cooking. 

Boiling it for a few minutes allows the raw blood to cook and hold together the mixture so that it doesn't disintegrate during the slicing of the ‘mutura’ when serving. 

Other people however prefer to see the red blood as they eat hence they roast without boiling. It is also possible to prepare ‘mutura’ without any blood at all for those people who are not comfortable consuming blood.
The ‘mutura’ is then placed on a roasting charcoal oven with very little fire where it is turned over and over until it is golden brown. 

Prepared By
Anthony Chege, Librarian NMK

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Chiswa chisisi

Scientific name – Termitoidae

Local name - Chiswa chisisi

Swahili name - kumbekumbe

For many people in Western Province, the termite season always brings with it smiles over the hope of uninterrupted supply of natural delicacy. For most of them, they have to wake up as early as 2am to fetch the insects that are mostly found on ant hills or form up in holes that are scratched with a stick before you find more than two termites in a hole or sometimes one.

Termite business has turned out to be a success for many as a small cup of termites goes for more than twenty shillings depending on the size of the cup. Most parents and children consume the insects and are supplemented with free proteins that would cost them if they were to go for meat, chicken or any other form of protein.
Western Province residents who know the importance of the insects would do anything to get them at any cost of sacrificing their sleep in exchange of the insects and some would consume raw while others would fry and munch them with ugali or plain.

There are different types of termites with each type having its own name among Bamasaaba people of Western and Eastern Uganda. To start with we have chiswa chisisi which are blackish in colour and the smallest in size. These ones are mostly seen during the rainy season from about 2pm to 4pm in the months of September to December. Early in the morning women and children collect three short sticks which are used to invite the termites. Sticks are beaten, this is to sound like rain and because termites emerge when it begins to rain, they all come trooping out during the day.

Normally, Bamasaaba people erect a small tent (siswa) which they cover with blankets leaving an opening that leads to a special hole dug at the opening where termites will slide into then they are collected. The special hole is called efubo which has banana leaves inside and at the entrance where termites slide and fall into the hole.

Another group of termites is called Chinunda which are brownish in colour and mostly comes out from 5 pm in the evening common in the months of December to February. There is also a group called Kamabuli that are common in the months of December to February that appear late in the evening from 6pm to 7pm. They are blackish in colour and usually take a very short time after they start coming out. 

Kamakhubwe are brownish in colour and appear after the season for kamabuli although they are not eaten. 

Chimome are blackish in colour and normally come out when it is raining, commonly in the months of June to October. Chindawa termites are blackish in colour and also appear when it is raining, are common in the months of April-May

Kamaresi are dark brown in colour, the biggest in size and normally appear at night. This season as from April to June is for kamaresi that people capture at night.  They are attracted to the light and that is how Bamasaaba people get them using light. Kamaswakhe are blackish in colour and also appear at night.

Chingalabuwe termite species are common in the months of September to November and are Brownish in colour. Kamaachichi are common in April to May and their appearance resembles wasps and they are blackish in colour. They appear mostly at around nine to eleven in the morning.

Bikeke are blackish in colour and are associated with some species of termites. Bisiabubu usually appear in the month of April and are usually small, black and whitish in colour. They are not eaten among Bamasaaba people because it is believed one would become deaf if he eats them.

Prepared By:
Emmy Makokha
Librarian, Kitale Museum